An apparent scammer used images of Libre — a local canine celebrity whose near death from neglect last year led to sweeping changes in Pennsylvania’s animal welfare laws — to raise funds for a fictitious rescue group in North Carolina.
A group calling itself the Paws Family Ranch used photos of Libre just days after his rescue from a southern Lancaster County farm — when he was emaciated, covered in mange and unlikely to survive — to solicit funds from animal lovers in a nationwide campaign.
Libre was called “Faith” in the Paws campaign, which made it seem that the ailing dog was one of their rescued animals.
And, according to outraged animal rights advocates on the Facebook group Justice for Libre, many of the animals pictured in the ranch’s fundraising campaigns were copied from similar cases across the country.
Rescued dogs such as Firu, a pit bull that was dragged behind a truck in North Carolina in 2010, and Bubba G, a pit bull found mutilated in Denver, Colorado, in 2015, were also pictured in the Paws Family Ranch campaigns.
A GoFundMe campaign for the ranch raised $375 before complaints about the copycat organization shut down the page. A Facebook page for the ranch — which, late last week was filled with comments from people accusing the organization of cheating its supporters — was shut down over the weekend.
An Arizona-based animal rights blogger said in a post on Saturday that he’s filed a complaint against Paws Family Ranch with the North Carolina Attorney General’s office.
Arlene Trowbridge Baril, a Texas resident who posts on the Justice for Libre page, said people “need to be diligent about shutting them down. As most crooks do they will rebrand under another name … until they are caught and prosecuted.”
Janine Guido, who adopted Libre after she assisted in his rescue from a farm near Quarryville, was angry about the misuse of her puppy’s photo, and she cautioned people to be careful before donating money to organizations attempting to raise money under false pretenses.
“Unfortunately, there are a few out there that are in it for the wrong reasons,” she said.
Jennifer Nields, an animal cruelty officer with the Lancaster County Animal Coalition, said it “hurts my heart” to see Libre’s image co-opted by another group.
“Unfortunately, there are people who will do or say anything to make quick money,” she said Monday.
Anyone making donations to an animal welfare group should “do as much research as possible” before sending money, Nields said.
“Research the organization itself and those involved to ensure your money is going to be used honestly,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to others whom you know are credible to seek advice or education on other organizations as well.”
Libre, whose recovery was called miraculous by veterinarians who treated him, became the face for a package of animal cruelty laws, including Libre’s Law, that was approved by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in June.
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